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Nuclear Meltdown : The Manhattan Scenario
The News - Science-Astronomy
March 24, 2011
nuclear meltdown manhattan scenario disaster

The two operating nuclear reactors known as Indian Point are situated in Buchanan, N.Y. - just 35 miles from midtown Manhattan. More than 17 million people live within 50 miles of these plants.

How might a meltdown start? An earthquake, obviously, is among the scenarios. Others include various forms of terrorist attacks. Regardless of the trigger, a meltdown would follow several specific stages.

First, as cooling water dissipated from the reactor core, intensely hot radioactive pellets in the fuel rods would overheat and swell, and their zirconium cladding would oxidize and rupture. Then the pellets themselves would begin to melt. (Many details described here reflect a study of Indian Point by Edwin S. Lyman.)

If the molten fuel core were to hit the bottom of the reactor vessel, it would trigger massive steam explosions that could blow the reactor vessel apart. The eventual distribution of radioactive elements would depend on several factors, including the weather. Both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency require an evacuation plan for a 10-mile radius of the reactor: an off-site alarm set to go off 30 minutes after an event began would allow time for the operators to determine the extent of the damage. That would leave 78 minutes from the alarm’s sounding to the beginning of the radioactive release.

 
Doomsday bunker sales on the rise
The News - Current Events
March 24, 2011
doomsday bunker disaster scenario
A devastating earthquake strikes Japan. A massive tsunami kills thousands. Fears of a nuclear meltdown run rampant. Bloodshed and violence escalate in Libya.

And U.S. companies selling doomsday bunkers are seeing sales skyrocket anywhere from 20% to 1,000%.

Northwest Shelter Systems, which offers shelters ranging in price from $200,000 to $20 million, has seen sales surge 70% since the uprisings in the Middle East, with the Japanese earthquake only spurring further interest. In hard numbers, that's 12 shelters already booked when the company normally sells four shelters per year.

"Sales have gone through the roof, to the point where we are having trouble keeping up," said Northwest Shelter Systems owner Kevin Thompson.

 
Worst Texas Drought in 44 Years Hits Wheat, Beef Supply
The News - Climate-Environment
March 24, 2011
texas drought natural disaster

The worst Texas drought in 44 years is damaging the state’s wheat crop and forcing ranchers to reduce cattle herds, as rising demand for U.S. food sends grain and meat prices higher.

Texas, the biggest U.S. cattle producer and second-largest winter-wheat grower, got just 4.7 inches (12 centimeters) of rain on average in the five months through February, the least for the period since 1967, State Climatologist John Nielsen- Gammon said. More than half the wheat fields and pastures were rated in poor or very poor condition on March 20.

Dry conditions extending to Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado may cut crop yields in the U.S. , the world’s largest exporter, as too much moisture threatens fields in North Dakota and in Canada. Wheat futures in Chicago are up 50 percent in the past year, after drought in Russia and floods in Australia hurt output and sent global food prices surging. Wholesale beef reached a record this week, and the U.S. cattle herd in January was the smallest since 1958.

 
Japan disaster: over 27,000 dead or missing
The News - Natural Disasters
March 24, 2011

More than 27,000 people are officially dead or missing after the earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11th.

According to the National Police Agency, 9,811 people are confirmed dead as of 9 PM on Thursday. The agency says it has received reports of 17,541 people missing. Most of the dead and missing are from the 3 hardest hit prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima.

The number of confirmed deaths in Fukushima totals 839, far smaller than the more than 5,800 in Miyagi and about 3,000 in Iwate. This may be due to the suspension of search operations in areas within 20 kilometers of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, because of radiation leaks. Figures appear almost certain to rise because of the absence of family members to report the dead and missing. In some areas, entire families appear to have perished in the tsunami that followed the magnitude 9.0 quake.
 
Japan's police say disaster death toll tops 9,500
The News - Natural Disasters
March 23, 2011
Japan's police agency says more than 9,500 people are dead after an earthquake and tsunami. Another 16,000 are missing.

Those tallies are likely to overlap, but a police spokesman from one of the of the hardest-hit prefectures, Miyagi, estimates that the deaths will top 15,000 in that region alone. Police in other devastated areas declined to estimate eventual tolls, but said the confirmed deaths in their areas already number about 3,800.

The National Police Agency said the overall number of bodies collected so far stood at 9,523, while 16,094 have been listed as missing.

 
Alien life sucked into a black hole after 'white dwarf hypernova' star explosion?
The News - Science-Astronomy
March 23, 2011
hypernova star explosion black hole alien life

The lack of evidence proving the existence of aliens is known to scientists as the ‘Great Silence’.

They have long been baffled how- despite years of searching – there has been no confirmation of life beyond our planet.

But now some astronomers believe the answer may lie in the destructive force of exploding stars – and claim ET may simply have been wiped out.

In particular, a phenomenon known as a white dwarf hypernova could have sucked alien life into a black hole.

And because this process – when an exceptionally large white dwarf star, a collapsed remnant of an elderly star, becomes unstable and explodes – has occurred several times over millions of years, it is possible that life may have wiped out more than once.

Scientists also believe there is possibility we on Earth too could be wiped out by the process of gamma ray bursts. [ DAILYMAIL UK ]

 
Earthquake leaves Tokyo waiting for 'big one'
The News - Natural Disasters
March 23, 2011
earthquake tokyo big one disaster

Earthquake-prone Tokyo has been braced for the “Big One” for decades and when a huge tremor set buildings swaying wildly on March 11, many residents of the Japanese capital thought it had finally arrived.

It had not. Although the magnitude 9 quake was the strongest in Japan’s recorded history, its epicentre was hundreds of kilometres away in the seas off the north-eastern coast. And while the quake triggered a tsunami that scourged coastal communities, damage in Tokyo and its surrounding areas was slight.

Yet the unfolding disaster in the north-east and a parallel crisis at a quake-crippled nuclear power plant offer the starkest of reminders of the need for the capital to do more to ensure it is prepared for any similar seismic assault.

The human and economic cost of a Tokyo earthquake could well exceed the ferocious toll taken by this month’s earthquake and tsunami, which is feared to have killed more than 22,000 people, with about 270,000 still in refuge centres on Tuesday. [ FT.COM ]

 
Alien Earths: 2 Billion in Our Galaxy Alone
The News - Science-Astronomy
March 22, 2011
alien earth earthlike planets

Roughly one out of every 37 to one out of every 70 sunlike stars in the sky might harbor an alien Earth, a new study reveals.

These findings hint that billions of Earthlike planets might exist in our galaxy, researchers added.

These new calculations are based in data from the Kepler space telescope, which in February wowed the globe by revealing more than 1,200 possible alien worlds, including 68 potentially Earth-size planets. The spacecraft does so by looking for the dimming that occurs when a world transits or moves in front of a star.

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., focused on roughly Earth-size planets within the habitable zones of their stars — that is, orbits where liquid water can exist on the surfaces of those worlds. After the researchers analyzed the four months of data in this initial batch of readings from Kepler, they determined that 1.4 to 2.7 percent of all sunlike stars are expected to have Earthlike planets — ones that are between 0.8 and two times Earth's diameter and within the habitable zones of their stars.
 
Blindsided by Ferocity Unleashed by a Fault
The News - Natural Disasters
March 22, 2011
japan earthquake tsunami fault line danger

The devastation in Japan raises a worrisome question: How many quakes are lurking in underestimated fault lines?

On a map of Japan that shows seismic hazards, the area around the prefecture of Fukushima is colored in green, signifying a fairly low risk, and yellow, denoting a fairly high one.

But since Japan sits on the collision of several tectonic plates, almost all of the country lies in an earthquake-risk zone. Most scientists expected the next whopper to strike the higher-risk areas southwest of Fukushima, which are marked in orange and red.

“Compared to the rest of Japan, it looks pretty safe,” said Christopher H. Scholz, a seismologist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, referring to the area hit worst by the quake on March 11. “If you were going to site a nuclear reactor, you would base it on a map like this.”

Records kept for the past 300 years indicated that every few decades, part of the Japan trench, an offshore fault to the east of Fukushima, would break, generating an earthquake around magnitude 7.5, perhaps up to magnitude 8.0. While earthquakes that large would be devastating in many parts of the world, the Japanese have diligently prepared for them with stringent building codes and sea walls that are meant to hold back quake-generated tsunamis. [ NY TIMES ]

 
Japan earthquake loaded stress on fault closer to Tokyo
The News - Natural Disasters
March 22, 2011
sendai earthquake tsunami

The recent monster quake that hit northeastern Japan altered the earth's surface, geologists say, loading stress onto a different segment of the fault line much closer to Tokyo.

Experts are quick to point out that this doesn't mean a powerful earthquake is necessarily about to strike the Japanese capital. Even if it did, the structure of the tectonic plates and fault lines around the city makes it unlikely that Tokyo would be hit by a quake anywhere near the intensity of the 9.0-magnitude one that struck March 11, said Roger Musson of the British Geological Survey

But, given the vast population - Tokyo and its surroundings are home to 39 million people - any strong temblor could be devastating.

"Even if you've got, let's say, a 7.5, that would be serious," the seismologist said.  Japan is located on the Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanos and fault lines spanning the Pacific Basin, and is regularly hit by earthquakes.

But before last week's quake - the largest to hit the country since it started keeping records 130 years ago - few geologists considered Japan to be a strong candidate for a 9-plus earthquake, said Andrew Moore, of Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. There is mounting evidence, however, that Japan has been struck by several severe quakes in the last 3,500 years - most in the northern reaches of the country. Sand deposits indicate that several quakes have spawned 30-foot-high (9-meter-high) waves that slammed into the northern island of Hokkaido, he said, the most recent in the 17th century. [ AP NEWS ]

 
FAQ : Japan Earthquake and Tsunami
The News - Natural Disasters
March 22, 2011
Japan is still reeling from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11, with thousands missing and dead, and now a nuclear crisis continues as officials and workers struggle to cool the damaged reactors. Follow the link for a brief FAQ and overview of the situation.
 
WAR NO. 3: US FIRES MISSILES INTO LIBYA
The News - War-Draft
March 20, 2011
More than 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles struck over 20 targets inside Libya today in the opening phase of an international military operation the Pentagon said was aimed at stopping attacks led by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and enforcing a U.N.-backed no-fly zone

President Obama, speaking from Brazil shortly after he authorized the missile attacks, said they were part of a "limited military action" to protect the Libyan people.

"I want the American people to know that the use of force is not our first choice and it's not a choice I make lightly," Obama said. "But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy." [ ABC NEWS ]

 
'Supermoon' Lunacy: Does the Moon Make Us Crazy?
The News - Weird-Strange
March 20, 2011

With the so-called supermoon upon us, as our only natural satellite makes its largest appearance Saturday (March 19) in more than 18 years, should we expect any lunacy?

For centuries legend has held that full moons make people go crazy. Full moons have been linked in popular culture with a rise in suicides and even epileptic seizures, but there's little to no scientific evidence backing these ideas up.  However, the moon is a powerful body, its gravity tugging on our oceans to control tides, and its light thought to impact ancient animal behaviors, including the start of one of the largest sex events on Earth (the spawning of corals). Here's what we do know about the moon's effects, and non-effects, on you and the Earth.

 
Japan tsunami 'could be 1,000-year event'
The News - Natural Disasters
March 16, 2011
japan tsunami earthquake 1000- year event

Tsunamis on the scale that hit north-east Japan last week may strike the region about once every 1,000 years, a leading seismologist has said.

Dr Roger Musson said there were similarities between the last week's event and another giant wave that hit the Sendai coast in 869AD.

It is not unusual for undersea earthquakes to generate tsunamis in this part of Japan. Offshore quakes in the 19th and 20th centuries also caused large walls of water to hit this area of coastline. But previous research by a Japanese team shows that in the 869 "Jogan" disaster, tsunami waters moved some 4km inland, causing widespread flooding.

The researchers said that such gigantic tsunamis occur in the area roughly once every 1,000 years. Dr Musson, who is the head of seismic hazard at the British Geological Survey (BGS), suggested the latest tsunami was comparable to the event in 869. [ BBC NEWS ]

 
Meltdown alert at Japan reactor
The News - Current Events
March 14, 2011
nuke reactor meltdown japan earthquake tsunami

Technicians are battling to stabilise a third reactor at a quake-stricken Japanese nuclear plant that has been rocked by a second blast in three days.

Sea water is being pumped into reactor 2 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after its fuel rods were fully exposed twice.

International nuclear watchdogs said there was no sign of a meltdown but one minister said a melting of rods was "highly likely" to be happening.

The crisis was sparked by Friday's 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami.

Thousands of people are believed to have died, and millions are spending a fourth night without water, food, electricity or gas. More than 500,000 people have been left homeless. [ BBC NEWS ]

 
Scientists warn nation faces SECOND monster quake and tsunami
The News - Natural Disasters
March 14, 2011
2000 bodies wash ashore earthquake japan tsunami
  • Second 'monster' quake could measure almost 8 on the Richter scale
  • Terrible tide of at least 2,000 bodies wash up on the coastline
  • Crews fight to bring reactor at nuclear power plant under control
  • Millions left without food and power and hospitals have no medicine

Devastated Japan today faced the prospect of a second massive earthquake and tsunami even as millions of citizen struggled to come to terms with its biggest-ever natural disaster.

On Friday, a quake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale caused widespread fatalities and damage, also triggering a huge wave, which prompted the death toll to spiral into many thousands.

At least 2,000 bodies have now washed up on the country's decimated coastline, crematoriums were overflowing with the dead and rescue workers ran out of body bags as the nation faced the reality of its mounting crisis.  [ DAILY MAIL UK ]

 
Monster aftershock could strike within days
The News - Natural Disasters
March 14, 2011
monster aftershock japan earthquake prediction

NORTH-EASTERN Japan can expect another monster earthquake large enough to trigger a tsunami within days, the head of the Australian Seismological Centre says.

The director, Kevin McCue, said there had been more than 100 smaller quakes since Friday, but a larger aftershock was likely.

''Normally they happen within days,'' he said. ''The rule of thumb is that you would expect the main aftershock to be one magnitude smaller than the main shock, so you would be expecting a 7.9.

''That's a monster again in its own right that is capable of producing a tsunami and more damage.''

The Japanese quake was the result of a process called thrust faulting. A piece of the Earth's crust broke away at the juncture of the Eurasian and Pacific plates and was thrust underneath the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido. The US Geological Survey estimated the quake moved the Japanese coast about 2.4 metres.

Japanese volcano erupts

A volcano in southwestern Japan erupted Sunday after nearly two weeks of relative silence, sending ash and rocks up to four kilometres (two and a half miles) into the air, a local official says.

It was not immediately clear if the eruption was a direct result of the massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake that rocked northern areas Friday, unleashing a fierce tsunami and sparking fears that more than 10,000 may have been killed.   [ TIMES LIVE

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami overview

  •  42 survivors have been pulled out of the rubble
  • Official death toll hits 1,597, but many hundreds believed to be buried under rubble or washed away by waves
  • Toll will soar after around 2,000 bodies were found on the shores of Miyagi prefecture
  • Second explosion at nuclear power plant
  • Number of people contaminated with radiation could reach 160
  • Region hit by hundreds of aftershocks, some up to 6.8-magnitude
  • Rescue operation begins but some areas still cut off by road damage and flood waters
  • 70,000 people evacuated to shelters in Sendai
 
Amazing Video - Tsunami as it reaches Kamaishi coast After Earthquake
The News - Natural Disasters
March 13, 2011
 
'Supermoon' did not cause Japanese earthquake and tsunami
The News - Science-Astronomy
March 13, 2011
supermoon earthquake tsunami japan disaster

The devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan early Friday were "completely unrelated" to the approaching "supermoon," despite a news report that tied the earthquake to the upcoming lunar event, according to U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist John Bellini.

The supermoon will occur on March 19, when the moon is at or near its point of closest orbit - lunar perigee - and is also full. As we explained in our previous coverage of the upcoming supermoon, seismologists have found no evidence to believe that lunar perigees heighten seismic activity.

The best evidence that this earthquake was not caused by a supermoon is that it happened now - exactly a week away from the date the moon will be full, and almost a week after it was new, the two times that the moon exerts its greatest pull on the planet. A very small correlation exists between full or new moons and seismic activity, because the stronger-than-usual tidal forces caused by the alignment of the sun and moon puts added stress on tectonic plates... But this quake happened with the sun and moon askew - the time when tidal forces are weakest. Putting aside the fact that the moon doesn't trigger massive earthquakes, blaming this quake on the supermoon is like trying to pin a house fire on an arsonist who is out of town at the time of the crime.

 
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